Review: The Vampire Knight Musical
By Skywing Knights // September 15, 2023
It must come at no surprise to anyone at this point that one of my favorite things in the world to do while in Japan is go to Musicals. Kind of a niche thing, I know, but that along with concerts remains a staple favorite thing of mine to do while in Japan. That’s why today, I wanted to highlight one of the musicals I attended in Japan that proved to be a very lucky snag. The show in question? The Vampire Knight Musical (ヴァンパイア騎士*ナイト* ミュジャカル) based on Matsuri Hino’s (樋野まつり) manga which ran in LaLa magazine.
I’d been a ‘Zero Kiryu’ (錐生 零) cosplayer long before the creation of this musical, so for me it was a must see. The manga had recently completed and the show was announced in late 2014. In Tokyo, the show was only scheduled to run from January 21st to the 25th. 4 Days. 4. Not nearly enough time!! And because of this, tickets were ridiculously hard to get.
The show also included Yumi Wakatsuki (若月佑美), a member of Nogizaka46 (乃木坂46), the “official rival group” of AKB48, though both groups’ producer was Yasushi Akimoto (秋元 康). Yumi played the lead, Yuki Cross (黒主 優姫). Coupling this fact with her popularity further increased the difficulty of getting tickets. (Often, fan clubs get the first opportunity for tickets of idols in shows).
I ended up entering the early lottery with three time submissions, the first of which was defeated. After that, I got my second-time submission pick. My seat was not super close to the front, but it was close enough to the stage, so I took it right away.
The Venue: Hakuhinkan Theater
The stage was held at the Hakuhinkan Theatre (博品館劇場) in Tokyo’s Ginza (銀座) neighborhood above the Hakuhinkan Toy Park (博品館 TOY PARK) on the 8th floor. It was a little tricky to find at first and it took a moment for me to figure out that the way up into the theater was via an elevator! Once upstairs, I found that the theater was small and a bit compact. However, that didn’t bother me as it just meant that my seat, which would have been a ways back had this been a Broadway show, was actually relatively close to the stage.
Upon going into the entry hall, I found that similar to many theaters in Japan, the layout reflected the target atmosphere of production itself as well. Always a nice touch. The whole room in a sense felt like one was stepping into an opera house. The floor was decked in red with chandeliers made of crystal, lighting the place up. Numerous flower displays for the cast and crew were displayed in the lobby.
Musical Merchandise and Goods
Guests were not allowed to enter until 11:30 AM on the dot (the show started at 12:00 noon). Regardless though, as soon as I entered the lobby, I found myself wondering where exactly to direct my attention first! I chose to go to the right where they were selling goods. (I figured it was better to go earlier than later.) Better to try to score early in that department earlier rather than later, and that proved to work well in my favor!
First, I went to AKIRA’s CD line and bought her new Limited Edition CD which included the theme song of the musical. I was happy to see they were also selling her first single “Aoki Tsuki Michite” (蒼き月満ちて) as well! (I would have bought it, but I already had it!) By purchasing her newest CD though, I was able to enter a lottery and obtained my number one Souvenir, AKIRA’s autograph! And when I say Autograph, I mean, an actual, legitimate autograph, on Canvas Paper. You can literally see the groves in it and the ink where it landed. So yes, this was a total score!
After that, I went to the next line to the left, where I was able to purchase goods for the Musical itself. I appreciated that the goods were all of a nice quality and there wasn’t an EXTREME variety of options, so you could easily pick and choose what you wanted. Sometimes this seems to happen with musicals in Japan, so this for me was a welcome relief for my wallet at the very least. I was able to get the Clear File Folder, the Bromides that were available, and the Program Book. Goods purchases complete!
Still having some time, I made my way over to the opposite side of the entrance hall to admire what I had seen right before going to AKIRA’s stand. The beautiful, lovely, absolutely stunning Cross Academy Uniforms on display, literally close enough to touch. And yes, I’d been hearing them call my name the whole time. They were actually selling them for about 400 to 450 USD (Ouch!). I already had my own at home of course, but to be perfectly honest, as a costume fan, if I had money to spare (since I technically didn’t need one, I just wanted one), I would have dropped the money for at least one of these uniforms. They were just beautiful!
They were made from a wonderful, lightweight but stunning and durable suiting material. tThe uniforms were adorned with beautiful silver studs and ribbons making up the signature look from the manga. The buttons in particular I was in love with as they must have been ordered and made specifically for the musical. This much as clear as they fit Matsuri Hino’s designs to a T. And trust me on that. I’ve seen all sorts of versions made by official outlets and fans alike. But these are still by far the ones I’ve found to be the most consistent with the source material.
The other thing that caught my eye, which I loved, was how the male uniforms were clearly made for a female figure impersonating that of a man. In other words, that was the job of these uniforms. And why was that?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Vampire Knight Musical, which is at its core a love story, is that it was made up of an entire female cast. There was never a specific reason as to why this was done. The majority of the male characters do carry very feminine features, making them the ideal ‘ikemen’ (イケ面) type. (Ikemen is a Japanese term for essentially a ‘pretty boy’, or a man with feminine looks or physical qualities, particularly in the face). So that could have been a reason. Many speculated though that another reason they went with an all female cast was to appease worried fans of Yumi Wakatsuki’s. (AKB48 and Nogizaka46 fans can get rather aggressively possessive over their idols and may not have liked the idea of Yumi working so closely with male actors considering the story line).
Whatever the case though, this led to more than half of the cast cross-dressing on stage. And this included the main two male leads and love interests of Yuki Cross, Kaname Kuran (玖蘭 枢) and Zero Kiryu, who were played by AKIRA and ROOT respectively. However, this didn’t bother me and it seemed to not bother many of the Japanese audience either. Frankly, to me it almost gave it a bit of a Takarazuka Revue (宝塚歌劇団) feel to the production (without the flashiness at the end typically associated with Takarazuka that is).
Benefiting from Takarazuka’s Legacy
To clarify, Takarazuka is a world renowned theater production company with only all female troupes based in Japan. For a comparison in production style and cast, in many ways, they are almost the opposite of Kabuki theater. That said, perhaps the fact that Japan has a strong history of theater companies with only all male or all female casts allowed for such a musical with an all female cast like Vampire Knight Musical to have the success and amount of interest that it did (and rightly deserved!).
Boys Style Models Take the Supporting Male Leads
That said, I know many people overseas were a bit skeptical at first about this. But both AKIRA and ROOT as well as their fellow cast members playing male roles did phenomenal jobs. Additionally, I found the casting to be genius. Both AKIRA and ROOT are well known for being Boys Style Models within Japan, a fashion style revolving around more boyish clothing specifically for women. The clothes often can give off an androgynous or even tomboy-ish sort of appearance, but they can also give off a more edgy, stronger, or even more laid back personality.
Because of this, many Boys Style Models are women who essentially excel at the art of portraying themselves as males. At the time of the show, Kaname’s actor, AKIRA, had recently also rose to international fame for singing the ending of 黒執事: Book of Circus (Black Butler Season 3) (the title of the song was mentioned above). Having heard the song, one that is incredibly and beautifully sad, once I heard that AKIRA would be playing Kaname Kuran, I instantly was excited. And while I wasn’t personally familiar with her work at the time, ROOT was also a popular and up and coming Boys Style Modal. But she was also an ingenious pick for that role in particular, I’ll add and I’ll explain why later. So picking both AKIRA and ROOT to play the lead male roles in this musical made up entirely of women was a fantastic choice.
The Performance and Setup
The musical was a 2 hour show with 15 minutes in between. Like previous shows I had been to, they often employed the use of moving stage pieces as well as projectors. A new use of the projectors I found too was that they essentially made a set of opening credits to follow the first song, which I rather liked a lot as it sort of felt like watching a piece of a live action movie.
The show followed the first major arc line of the manga, centered around Yuki and Zero, the Guardians of Cross Academy. A bit more than just ‘hall monitors’, the two are charged with keeping the Day Class safe from the Night Class. But that is a little more involved, considering the Night Class is made up entirely of Vampires.
Yuki is shown to have affection for Kaname Kuran, President of the Night Class, who saved her life ten years ago. This often aggravates her friend Zero, whose family was murdered by a vampire four years prior (only he miraculously survived). As a result, he has an intense disdain and hatred for vampires and his goal is to find the most effective way to eradicate them.
Zero’s Secret and the Ensuing Aftermath
So naturally when Zero bites into Yuki’s neck and drinks her blood, she is shocked. Unbeknownst to her, during the vampire attack, he had become a vampire himself, as the vampire who attacked his family was a pureblood. Soon after this revelation, a new girl enters the Night Class and Kaname, another pureblood vampire, realizes an enemy has entered their midst. This sets up the rest of the musical for an inevitable chess game.
The musical follows the manga’s story line pretty closely, only cutting certain parts short when needed. Some characters, such as Toga Yagari (夜刈十牙), Zero’s mentor in the manga, do not appear in the musical, while others make surprise appearances, such as Zero’s twin brother Ichiru (壱縷). Overall though, the story carried over incredibly well and kept the core elements of what made up the best of the original arc in the manga.
Well Deserved Praise
The success of the musical came from a variety of elements. From the excellent job of the cast, to the choice in music, a mix of that classic piano-organ vampire vibe and modern rock allowed for a graceful, but action packed and eventful plot.
The special effects, often a device used to wow and entertain, additionally were used to subtly add to the atmosphere of the show. There were a number of times when special effects projections for instance were used to further elaborate on a character’s emotions though the character had to remain silent in the scenario they were in. For instance, Kaname’s anger was often shown through the cracking of glass. Additionally, cherry blossoms would follow the weeping Kuruizaki Hime (狂い咲姫) or “Off-season Blooming Princess”, Shizuka Hio (緋桜 閑). These projections were often direct lifts from the manga as well. And this was a wonderful touch for the fans and was a nice tribute to Matsuri Hino’s original work.
AKIRA Takes Center Stage
Individual praise must go to AKIRA who, as the player of the Chess game so to speak, captivated the audience with her vocals. AKIRA’s natural range is that of an alto, possibly a tenor, but she can hit high notes as well when needed. She played the “Pureblood Vampire” (in other words, the king of Vampires) perfectly, without ever missing a beat. A perfect gentleman, with a darkness lurking in his shadow.
ROOT Amazes as Zero Kiryu
My utmost praise of the day though had to go to ROOT. Although Zero remains and has always been my favorite character in the story, that is not why my praise goes to ROOT. In fact, this predisposition had me going in with a very critical state of mind in regards to Zero. I went in thinking, “Was it really going to be possible for anyone to get this complex character across to us in less than 3 hours?”
Zero at the heart of the story is the “Vampire Knight”. At least, that’s my read on it and there are a number of reasons that would lead me to this conclusion. In any case, as the “Vampire Knight”, he suffers from physical pain, mental pain, and emotional pain throughout the first arc of the manga. He looses his family, becomes a thing he loathes, and often harbors suicidal thoughts. All of the trauma of his past has led him to believe that he is a threat to those he holds dear. Worse perhaps, he watches the girl he loves sacrifice for him over the course of this storyline. And the whole time, she’s looking on at another boy. Even so, he fights an overwhelming addiction and increasing madness in order to try and save the person he loves.
A Spectacular Performance All Around
In short, ROOT had a full plate with this role. She had a lot of emotions and a lot of difficult acting to do in order to portray this in a believable way to the audience. And despite the mammoth responsibility at hand, she did phenomenally. Zero’s pain was our pain and his struggles became our struggles as we watched her heartrending portrayal of Zero’s monolithic trials. To my astonishment and delight, it was absolutely beautifully done and she deserves all of the praise for it.
Overall, my fellow audience members I’m sure would agree that the musical was nothing short of a spectacular performance. Something to note as well was that this show seemed to draw an audience of all ages and of both genders. This surprised me. But also goes to show the versatility and relatability of such a fantasy driven, romantic story and performance. I made sure to quickly reserve my copy of the DVD version of the Musical as well as go to the Gachas after the show. After seeing that performance, the DVD was a must. Not to mention, I now had a desire for a couple pins of the cast members in costume too. And lady luck was smiling down on me again it seemed! I ended up getting Zero and Kaname in the first go!
The one crime of this show was that there was no CD of the music. The music was so very beautiful, fun, tragic, and romantic. I would have loved my own copies. Sadly though, this seems to be a trend in Japan. But one can still hope the trend will break one day.
In conclusion though, the musical was a wonderful show. And I was nothing short of ecstatic when my copy of the DVD arrived. The cast members were phenomenal and extremely talented. They made the show much more real and exciting than anyone could have ever anticipated. It certainly makes me hope that the actors will continue to work in theater so we can see more of their talent.
So if you get the chance to watch this musical, do it! It’s time well spent and if you enjoy Vampire Knight, your collection won’t be complete without it! See below, Kaname agrees! 😉
Till next time my loves,
“Vampire Knight Musical” 2015 Complete Bromide Collection + Bonuses!
(ヴァンパイア騎士ミュージカル 2015 プロマイドコレクション )
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